Monday, August 8, 2016

Who receives a “CMMI certification,” the organization or the team?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – our IT organization is interested in using the CMMI for performance improvement. If we’re successful with our CMMI adoption, who receives the CMMI certification – the organization or the team? ~ Renata B.

Hey, Renata,

None of the above. When your organization is successful in adopting the CMMI, no one gets a CMMI certificate.

What? How is that fair? Well, allow me to shed some light.

It’s more than a matter of terminology, Renata, but it starts there. See, when an organization takes a proper approach to CMMI, and is successful with its SCAMPI-A appraisal, it achieves a Capability Rating, or Maturity Level, such as CMMI Level 2 or CMMI Level 3. This is cause for celebration, because the company has put itself on the path to greatness. But it’s not a cause for certification, because …

CMMI certification isn’t a thing, as the kids would say.

In our lingo, there’s no such thing as an organization getting a “CMMI certification.” It’s a misnomer.

Now, it certainly seemed real enough when our friends at the Department of Defense started creating an environment where a CMMI mandate felt and looked like a certification. Many electronics and software companies in the commercial sector followed suit. They began routinely inserting requirements in their RFPs and contracts that suppliers be at a certain CMMI Level, which sounded like a certification, but it’s not.

This is an important distinction, Renata. Focusing on CMMI certification is a misguided interpretation of what actually needs to be done. Not saying YOU are in this predicament, but a lot of organizations will take this misguided interpretation and go right off a cliff with it. By focusing only on chasing the piece of paper, not improvement, they end up losing all the value of the CMMI.

You don’t want that, for two big reasons.

First, your clients want you to be better at what you do. That’s a noble intention. We all want that for ourselves, to be in a continuously improving environment. The CMMI guides your journey to getting better at what you are ALREADY doing.

Second, and this is a secret (so don't tell ANYONE)! It's easier to do it right than it is to chase the paper! And you also get all the benefits of the CMMI. What's not to like?

The value of the CMMI comes from the transformation of the culture of your company. It’s about changing the way we behave, so that we build products that are better than other companies that are building similar products - albeit with lame processes that cost more, produce lower quality, and make employees unhappy.

You can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. When we put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors.

If you’d like to learn more about taking a proper approach to the CMMI, Renata, you may be interested in our “Intro to CMMI-DEV” class, which is being held in Detroit, MI, on September 20-23. Also, if you are interested in learning additional new skills, and being more agile, the class also includes a supplemental, one-day Scrum Learning Experience.

You’re invited to join us, and bring your team!

For more information on "Intro to CMMI-DEV" training class, click here:

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

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